Why did the USA drop the atomic bomb? An intriguing question with a number of chilling and inexplicable answers. I am going to give you my opinion on this catastrophic event which many felt was unnecessary and inhumanely atrocious. This topic has been at the heart of many historians arguments and always becomes inextricably correlated with revenge, inquisitiveness and corruption of the highest order. In August of 1945, the world changed forever with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The bomb ultimately killed over 200 000 people, most of whom, were women and children. The USA claimed that they did it in order to save lives, a claim which I have explored and scrutinised and have found out that as well as this there also was money, technology, politics, science, communism, power, experimentation, military reasons and most importantly in my opinion, their burning desire for revenge. First and foremost, the Americans desire for revenge, which stemmed from Japan’s fateful decision to bomb pearl harbour, was ultimately pivotal in the decision to drop the atomic bomb.
The American fleet was based at Pearl Harbour and 2000 Americans were savagely butchered. This not only humiliated them but also led to the US being thrust into a barbaric war full of bloodshed and animosity. The Japanese were not following the Geneva Convention in regards to treatment of prisoners of war. This document says that prisoners are not to be put through torture of physical or psychological nature. The Japanese refused to comply with this and would decapitate American prisoners, shove bamboo shoots under their fingernails and various other horrific acts as means of torture.
The craving for revenge against the Japanese became an everyday occurrence in their minds and America would not subside until this hunger was completely satisfied. One former prisoner of war was quoted as saying ‘the world today is better off’; this is a very poignant and extreme manifestation of hate which we may now look upon as disturbing but it was quite common amongst the American people. The dropping of the bomb would definitely save American lives. The Battle of Midway, fought near the Central Pacific island of Midway, was the turning point of WW11 in the Pacific.
Before this battle the Japanese were on the offensive, capturing territory throughout Asia and the Pacific. From then on Japan’s losses grew and grew and by 1945 they were expected to surrender. However, the Japanese would risk life and limb in pursuit of glory, they were undaunted by the prospect of death and would do anything for their emperor. This was not helped by the Americans unwillingness to compromise with anything other than unconditional surrender. Some people believe that the Americans deliberately asked for unconditional surrender to prolong the war and drop the bomb.
Some historians criticized this clause because they felt it might have prevented the Japanese government from deciding to surrender before the atomic bombs were dropped. The Emperor was so highly revered in Japan that his removal would only occur under the most dire of circumstances. In my opinion, even if the United States had agreed to allow the Emperor to stay in power the Japanese would still have refused to surrender. It was defeat, not the terms of the defeat that the Japanese military leaders so vehemently opposed. The atomic bomb ultimately cost the colossal figure of two billion dollars.
President Roosevelt initiated the project and a number of renowned German scientists were brought in to construct it. It is the cost that acts as one of the catalysts for the dropping of the atomic bomb. For once the money was had been used and the bomb was ready there was no turning back. It took three years and one of the main motives was to beat the Russians to it. The American also acknowledged that if the Russians made it first they would surely use it and have the upper hand in the battle for pre-eminence. They used the war as an excuse and the unwillingness of the Japanese to surrender made the decision making much easier.
Truman discouraged the USSR from negotiating peace simply because of the fact that if Japan had surrendered they might never get a better opportunity to use the bomb. Without a shadow of doubt, the Soviet territorial expansion also played a factor in the dropping of the bomb. Both the USA and the Soviets were obsessive in their struggle for supremacy. The Soviets were ruthless in their attempts to gain power and their ‘red army’ sent a shiver down peoples spines. They had already taken Poland and many other countries during the war.
The Soviets were helping the Chinese with the war against Japan and would later get the railroads in China and Manchuria when Japan completely surrendered. The Americans did not want Russia to get involved in the war against Japan. The most obvious reasons would be to prevent the Russians from expanding and to keep them out of Japan where they would hamper the peace process and gain even more territory. Truman also wanted to prevent Soviet expansion in Asia and wanted Stalin to relinquish his grip on Europe. The USA also had an infamous fear and dislike of communism.
Subsequent to the war Poland was under a communist regime and the chances were high of the rest of Europe becoming communist. The United States obviously anticipated that, through the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, the Russians would be intimidated and thus be more agreeable in negotiations for the division of Europe. Without such a weapon, the Russians would have been ruthless in their ideological takeover of Europe. Relations with the Russians were becoming increasingly apprehensive at that point and the United States wanted to prove to the world that they, and not the Russians, were the most superior country in the world.
By intimidating Russia, all these goals could be realized. It’s quite apparent that Truman and Roosevelt felt no compassion for human life, having dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki simply to overawe Russia. Truman said that when the bomb was dropped he’ll ‘certainly have a hammer on those boys’. By those boys he is referring to the Soviets and this quote provides use with further evidence that Japan were only pawns in his game with the USSR. Nonetheless, instead of the desired effect that the United States had wished for, the Russians responded more hostilely and thus the Cold War began.
As cold-blooded as it may seem, the USA also wanted to experiment on the Japanese. An atomic bomb had never been dropped before and the thrill of experimentation overcame their compassion for human life. If the bomb was successful they would cement their place in history and the notion of their supremacy would never cease to exist. They wanted to discover the full power of the bomb and to demonstrate that their capitalist technology is far more advanced than that of communism. The Americans dropped the bomb at the time of rush-hour when most people were exposed and vulnerable.
Furthermore a collection of data was returned to scientists for analysis. This shows that experimentation was at the heart of the decision to drop the bomb. There were also political factors incorporated in the decision to drop the bomb. There was an imminent election and the atomic bomb was imperative to Truman’s plan to stay in power. He had never been elected in the first place; he was promoted subsequent to the death of Roosevelt. His use of propaganda made the American’s loathe the Japanese and convinced them that the dropping of the bomb was a heroic act which saved countless American lives.
There is no doubt that the dropping of the bomb increased his popularity and ultimately led to his election in 1948. Truman was also encouraged to drop the bomb by senior members most notably James F Byrnes and Henry Stimson. It is ambiguous whether they did this in order to pursue their own primal desires or for the sake of their country. Maybe Japan knew that the obstacles to their victory could never be overcome. Although they knew that regardless of all hope the outcome would never be what they longed for, sometimes the exhilaration that comes from the thrill of hate maybe greater than the victory itself.
It is this thrill that acts as the catalyst for their daring fanatics. Although they are at opposite ends of the spectrum there is and has always been a fine line between bravery and insanity, as they are both extremely complex emotions often this line can become blurred. There is a certain point at which bravery becomes insanity and I believe the Japanese crossed that point. Surely the Intransigence of the Japanese even after the first atomic bomb was dropped shows a passion which you can not help but feel sympathetic for.
Some historians have debated whether the Americans knew the full scale horror of the bomb when they made the inauspicious decision to deploy it. Truman had no knowledge of the bomb until the death of Roosevelt and his subsequent promotion to presidency. At first you might think that if he knew the full impact that the bomb he would have thought twice before giving the orders for it to be dropped. However his subsequent statement suggest otherwise. ‘Two billion dollars spent on the biggest gamble, and we have won’. This is a very alarming quote as he considers the barbaric massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent people as winning.
It also shows that scientifically, having designed the bomb and got it ready just before the war reached its climax, they believed that it had to be tested. I believe that by dropping the bomb the USA plunged the world into depravity. The world would never be the same. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki revolutionized warfare and ushered in a new era of terror, uncertainty and a constant nuclear threat. The bombs’ effects from the blast, extreme heat, and radiation left an estimated 200,000 people dead. Today, the Japanese are still feeling the effects of the dropping of the atomic bombs.
The dreadful scars still remain in the bodies and the hearts of those who were present in 1945. The radiations emitted from the atomic bombs have not ceased to cause numerous growth disorders, many psychological and social effects along with a drastic increase in leukemia and breast cancer. The bombs created a temporary resolution that lead to another, more daunting conflict. The dropping of the bomb led to the arms race which ultimately led to the Cold War. The Cold war was a political confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States that again shaped a new worldwide nuclear threat.
The destructive potential of nuclear weapons had created a global sweep of fear as to what might happen if these terrible forces where unleashed again. The technology involved in building the first atomic bombs has grown into the creation of nuclear weapons that are potentially 40 times more powerful than the original bombs used. The USA now has this notion that it is their obligation to ‘police the world’. A notion which has seen them invade various countries trying to convince the world of their nobility.
The ignorance and obduracy of mankind has made them forget that albeit America claim they are invading countries to annihilate the threat of nuclear warfare they are the only nation in history to have unleashed a weapon of mass destruction. Perhaps the most controversial and heavily scrutinized issue of the twentieth century was President Harry Truman’s decision to unleash atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945. While the sequence of events preceding that fateful summer morning of August 6,1945 are fully understood, the motives behind Truman’s actions are shrouded in ambiguity.
Top military officials publicly denounced the use of such a horrendous weapon, while the obvious advantages to the bomb, American’s argue, was a shortened Pacific War. Paradoxical views between traditional American beliefs and historic theories suggest that the issue is still very much unresolved. The lives of millions were shattered in a few seconds as the bombs demolished their homes and murdered their family members. Never has one incident in history affected such a great number of people for so many years. But the question remains: Why did Truman drop the atomic bomb?
Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb was clearly not a military necessity because land invasion casualties were much lower than perceived and the Japanese had all but surrendered. I believe that revenge is the most important factor in the dropping of the bomb as revenge is an inexplicable emotion that inexorably leads to the destruction of either the avenger or the avenged. Many people have gone as far as saying it is an act of infamous and inexcusable terrorism. The pilot who unleashed the bomb sums it up in one chilling and deeply moving conclusion ‘what have I done’?